My great-grandmother died of breast cancer. I never knew her, but my father always referred to her as a saint. As a boy, he remembers her walking to his school each day for lunch and bringing a hot meal for he and his brother. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer in the early part of the 1950s, my father said he could remember her walking up and down the halls in writhing in pain. His mother, my grandmother, succumbed to pancreatic cancer in 1983 and his wife, my mom, died of ovarian cancer in 1996. Cancer runs in my family and I have a daughter, a niece and a sister. I give money to charities in the hope that a cure will be found. I annually give to a friend’s team who participates in Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure® (notice the trademark).
Unfortunately, like all successful businesses, greed can get in the way of an important cause. Over the past several years, Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure® has aggressively been going after nonprofits who dare to use the term “for the cure.”
According to writer Laura Bassett with the Huffington Post, “So far, Komen has identified and filed legal trademark oppositions against more than a hundred of these Mom and Pop charities, including Kites for a Cure, Par for The Cure, Surfing for a Cure and Cupcakes for a Cure–and many of the organizations are too small and underfunded to hold their ground.”
“It happened to my family,” said Roxanne Donovan, whose sister runs Kites for a Cure, a family kite-flying event that raises money for lung cancer research. “They came after us ferociously with a big law firm. They said they own ‘cure’ in a name and we had to stop using it, even though we were raising money for an entirely different cause.”
North Carolina Public Radio’s Janet Babin also reported on the story, “Different nonprofits may share similar missions — raising money for good causes. But whatever you do, don’t mess with anybody’s trademarks. Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, the breast cancer charity, has warned some groups to stay away from its trademarked phrase, “race for the cure.” And look out out if you want to use the color pink.”
Babin had no trouble verifying the story, “Komen’s general counsel Jonathan Blum says that the foundation protects its trademarks as a matter of financial stewardship and that the group wants to avoid confusion. A mix-up could mean a sizable donation, landing on another charity’s books.”
NBC Philadelphia also reported on the story, “Elaine Grobman, executive director of the Foundation’s Philadelphia chapter, told NBC10 that the organization has used donated money to fight for its trademark and that the group must defend its logo.”
But they aren’t defending their logo. They are appropriating a tag line “for the Cure,” and in doing so they are spending millions of dollars in donations, donations made to cure breast cancer. Women are dying and they are more worried that a donation may slip through their greedy little fingers and instead be given to another non-profit. I’ve worked in PR and Marketing for more than two decades. Their brand, “Susan G. Komen,” is enough to identify who they are, for which I am thankful. Now that I can so easily identify them, I will no longer donate to them.
The saddest thing is that a remarkable woman’s name is now being tarnished. Family members, you had better find a way to protect Susan Komen, perhaps with the same vigilance employed by the administration at the foundation. In the end, a person’s name is far more important than money.